Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Why Ghanaian youth shun marriage

By John Owusu, Kumasi, Ghana

A discussion about the increasingly frustrating experience of young men who cannot marry.
For the past three years, he has been frequenting the pubs, movies and attending funeral celebrations either alone or in the company of other men peers. His attractive personality should have been enough to attract the fair sex, but he decides to shun their company.

Kwame Poku-Agyeman graduated four years ago from the prestigious Ghana Institute of Professional Studies and presently he is working at the Accra Head Office of Pioneer Tobacco Company as Assistant Accountant - a position very much envied by many of his friends. He was 36 only last July.

At such an age, society's expectation is that Kwame should marry to become responsible. In Ghana, not unlike many African societies, marriage is a good barometer of a man's respon- sibility. And for him to continue to be a bachelor at such an age is a sign of failure and irresponsibility.

For it is traditionally believed that once a young man gets married, he puts an end to reckless spending and seriously thinks more and more of how to keep his marital home. Also his wife and children exert some pull over him to keep him indoors during leisure hours, thus minimising his visits to the taverns and pubs.

On my recent visit to Accra I met my bosom and long life friend Kwame and since for the past three months we have not seen ourselves though we have been regularly corresponding, we found ourselves plunged into intractable conversation that mainly centred on marriage and the Ghanaian economy, lasting well over three good hours.

Kwame was gentlemanly and smartly dressed like a top executive but one look at his face told me that not only was he confused and bored but that all was not well. What might have gone amiss?, I asked myself.

"Hi Kwame, how do you do, how're you getting on with business?" I hurriedly asked with smiles.

"Hmmmm! OK, by Almighty's grace," Kwame responded with a trembling voice. "How is Kumasi?" he enquired.


"What about the old folks, your wife and the young ones?"

"They’re all doing well”

After some exchanges about our mutual friends both at home and abroad, I asked him why he has not got married and chose to avoid women during outings. His answer was simply "times are hard and rough".

Pressed further to explain himself, Kwame retorted this time with an apologetic voice. "The present economic situation is not congenial for one to marry.”

"So, when will you marry?"

"Look at a situation where almost every four months there is devaluation, increase in taxation, prices, hospital fees. How can I marry when my present salary hardly takes me alone through two weeks. Rent, light and water bills alone take almost 55% of my monthly 'take home' and the rest is spent on food alone."

The malaise plaguing our economy has brought in its trail many social deprivations that Ghana is developing a sense of "each one for himself and Allah for us all... “

"Really it's hard but you've got to try, you know, time waits for no man, nobody knows tomorrow." I tried to console him but he cut me short.

"It's true Abi, but I want to travel first..." Tears from his eyes forced him to discontinue the narration of his catalogue of problems to me.

In Accra, he took up a part-time appointment as Accounting and Economics teacher at the Accra Workers College to enable him to supplement his meagre income which, like any Ghanaian worker, is parallel to the prevailing prices of goods and services.

But the imposition of excessive tax on overtime earnings has forced him to stop. His immediate aim of travelling to Nigeria to seek temporary economic asylum so as to relieve his never-ending problem somewhat was recently shattered by the worsening economic situation there and its attendant repatriation of over a million of his countrymen.

Kwame also saw his chance of going into business for himself in "active hustling" has also been blocked by a series of devaluation packages (six times within three years) of the government which have since rocketed the cost of the Accra-London fare from £6,000.00 to €72,000.00

Kwame Poku-Agyeman's problems are expressions of a social breakdown and economic realities that are subtly and cunningly unfolding in the Ghanaian society. It is, indeed, a conviction that reflects the thoughts and dreams of many young Ghanaian bachelors more particularly the educated ones who are distancing themselves many kilometers away from marriage. They are treating the institution of marriage with deserved contempt not because it lost its value but because many you men in the country find it very difficult to cope with the present economic situation in which one cannot make ends meet.

The malaise plaguing our economy has brought in its trail so many social deprivations that the Ghanaian is developing a sense of "each one himself and Allah for us all". "This complete loss of fellow human feeling in almost all spheres of life Kwame told me.

Life for the Ghanaian, be he ordinary or average or middle class has become hectic and fighting adequately for oneself is really an uphill task and difficult to accomplish.

To admit, therefore, a wife into your home would mean an attempt at committing social and psychological suicide.

The situation of the young spinster is financially and relatively quite better. They have succeeded in breaking the monopoly in the retail trade which hitherto had been the preserve of a few established market mummies. The shuttle between Accra-London-Accra, Accra-Lagos-Accra, and Accra-Lome-Accra to mention just three, bring in miscellaneous items for sale. Those of them who cannot afford such trips buy and distribute internally. They have been reaping handsome profits.

Interestingly enough, their good looks and dependable financial standing have not been able to attract the young men. The fact is that the conservative and traditional Ghanaian whether better educated or illiterate, believes that it is his responsibility to foot all the domestic bills and thereby effectively play the role of the husband in the home. Husbands therefore make sure that their wives are not given the opportunity to develop "Jezebelian" characteristics.

So, unlike their young men, the girls are sometimes seen in pubs and taverns drinking or dancing without men.

A young lady of 25, Naa-Ode, whom I chatted with at the Hotel de Kingsway in Kumasi during an old timers session charmingly smiled and said, "Not that we want to sit alone; the thirst for men's company is natural and we would like to have it the way it is with women elsewhere. But maybe because of fear of something that I can't tell, the men are not making the approaches."

"But you girls can also initiate process?"

"It's possible we can gather the courage to approach the men, but this will be un-Ghanaian."


"In the African setting it is the men who woo and not the reverse. We definitely do not want to become Europeans and we'll not look like men," Naa with smiles hurriedly submitted. Any casual observer who does not understand the sociology of the traditional Ghanaian society would be bewildered at the predicament of the young women.

These unsavoury social phenomena have brought to the fore the need for Ghanaian policy makers to improve and restore some balance to the Ghanaian economy.

In the absence of such an impediment the purchasing power of Ghanaian men would continue to experience an uncontrolled downward trend. It would doubtlessly have discussions on the institution of mar threatening its existence.

Ghanaian men have love in abundance. But if people do not have the means to become husbands then Ghana’s future is sure to possess an army of spinsters and bachelors.

talking drums 1985-10-07 Nigeria at 25 - A nation in a hurry